It's time to go back to school, and that means back-to-school shopping--not just for clothes and running shoes, but for the tools to succeed. In the case of today's students, that includes a laptop and smartphone. But the fall is also a great time to shop for tools that can propel your business forward. That's why I've compiled a list of resources that'll be helpful for any entrepreneur throughout the rest of the year.

I chose these tools subjectively based on two informal selection criteria:

  1. ROI--comparing effort to use against potential impact on a daily basis.
  2. Focusing only on tools that can be used by most, if not all, of us.

With that said, here are the top tools entrepreneurs should consider in 2018:

Join.me

More and more, remote workers have become the norm. Long gone are the days where all your best minds work under one roof. With this comes new challenges, including maintaining strong communication channels. That's where Join.me comes in.

It is like Skype for Business, but easier to use. It offers an ideal presentation for both team meetings and remote sales calls. I love the intuitive interface and the ability to set up personalized URLs. Prices start at $13 a month.

Alternatives: Zoom, Skype for Business, WebEx

Trello

Trello is the online project management corkboard for the 21st century. It follows the "keep it simple" principle with drag and drop functionality, making team task management easy and project coordination seamless.

I recently used Trello for a 36-month project multimedia project involving dozens of writers, animators, and developers in three countries and three time zones. The tool was a godsend, keeping everyone literally on the same page (albeit that page was online). It has some freemium options, so you can try before you buy.

Alternatives: Asana, Wrike, Glip

Foundersuite

Managing investors, especially with the growth of ICOs and crowdsourcing, can be a huge distraction. Some of the founders I have invested in report spending upwards of a third of their time raising money, managing investments, and communicating with investors.

Foundersuite helps with all of these tasks, leveraging a customized search tool to find your next great investors. The site also gives users 80 templates for pitch decks, financial models, term sheets, and much more. It is free for ventures with fewer than 25 active investors.

Alternatives: Gust, PitchXO, Dealroom

Clarity.fm

We now have on-demand drivers (Uber), on-demand vacation properties (Airbnb), and even on-demand handymen (Jiffy), so why not on-demand mentoring? That's the value proposition behind Clarity.fm, whose tagline is "Startup advice from world class experts."

This online community with more than 5,000 experts and mentors allows entrepreneurs to search for and connect with expertise from around the globe. Use it not just for advice, but to explore potential customer and strategic relationships with executives all over the world.

Pricing is based on a per-minute fee set up by the expert, and some experts (like me) donate all their fees to charity.

Alternatives: Ibbü, Passle, OnFrontiers

Front

I have written lots about the fact that businesses would be smarter to focus on retention and churn than on the new client sales funnel. To do that, you need really good customer service.

That is where Front comes in. As its website claims, it is a shared inbox for customer service teams. Pricing starts at $15 a month and there is a free 14-day trial.

Front takes the complicated process of user support and simplifies it down to the inbox. If Gmail is already your most-used app, then Front is a natural tool for you.

Alternatives: Missive, HappyFox, Freshdesk

Gatsby.ai 

Leveraging social influencers (individuals with a strong following online) is a fast-growing customer acquisition channel. Managing messaging, however, can continue to be a challenge. This is where Gatsby can help.

Gatsby's raison d'être is to help business owners identify and engage customers over social media. The software, which resides on your website, helps you learn who your social customers are and then helps turn them into authentic advocates of your firm.

While it is relatively pricey compared to other tools in this list--$300 a month--Gatsby claims in can increase conversion to 34 percent of site visitors. If that is true, can you afford not to use this?

Alternatives: Socialbakers, #Paid, Meltwater

Published on: Aug 29, 2018